Sorry to interrupt...this will only take a moment.
This site is an independent reader-supported project.
Because you have viewed at least a few articles now...
Can you give a small donation to keep us online?
We can give you e-books and audiobooks and stuff.
This site is an independent reader-supported project.
The cost of keeping it running are considerable.
If you can spare a few dollars it would help us enormously.
We can give you e-books and audiobooks and stuff.
×
×
Experimental Feature

Select 'Atmospheric Audio' from the Audio menu to add subtle background audio to certain portions of the article.

Davy Crockett: King of the Atomic Frontier

Article #256 • Written by Alan Bellows

▼ Scroll to Continue ▼

On 17 July 1962, a caravan of scientists, military men, and dignitaries crossed the remote desert of southern Nevada to witness an historic event. Among the crowd were VIPs such as Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and presidential adviser General Maxwell D. Taylor who had come to observe the "Little Feller I" test shot, the final phase of Operation Sunbeam. The main attraction was a secret device which was bolted to the roof of an armored personnel carrier, a contraption called the The Davy Crockett Weapon System.

Named after the famous American folk hero, this defense apparatus was based on the tried-and-true recoilless rifle, a launcher similar to the shoulder-fired tubes used in the Second World War. Such weapons were designed to counteract much of their recoil by routing some expanding gas out the rear end, thereby producing forward thrust at the same moment that the projectile pushes the gun backwards. But the Davy Crockett Weapon System did improve on the concept in one important way: it paired this dead-simple launch device with a tiny fission bomb, making it the most convenient nuclear bomb delivery system ever developed.

As the threat of Soviet invasion loomed over Europe, US Army officials decided they needed a tool for halting-- or at least delaying-- the endless columns of troops and tanks which might one day pour out of East Germany and the USSR. The task fell to the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, where nuclear scientists succeeded in shoehorning an atomic bomb into a portable package. This "W54" warhead was then mated with a reliable delivery system, and the resulting weapons were handed over to the Atomic Battle Group for policing the border between East and West Germany.

The Davy Crockett shell weighed about seventy-six pounds, and it vaguely resembled a watermelon with fins. At thirty-one inches long and eleven inches in diameter, the projectile was too large to fit inside the gun, so it perched on the top while an attached rod was inserted into the barrel. The shell could be fired from a four-inch-wide recoilless rifle which could lob the bomb a little over a mile, or a larger six-inch-wide version which could heave it up to two and a half miles. The launchers were mounted to jeeps and personnel carriers, and each was operated by a three-man atomic squad. The Davy Crockett was also designed to detach from its vehicle, allowing the teams to relocate on foot and dispatch their miniature mutually-assured-destruction from a handy tripod mount.

The Atomic Battle Group was charged with the protection of Europe between 1961 and 1971, and during those ten years 2,100 of the Davy Crockett Weapons Systems were deployed. In the event of a Soviet invasion, these elite squads were trained to deploy themselves in the path of the advancing formations. Once in position, a flurry of mathematics would provide the trajectory and flight time to the targets, and these data would be used to configure the launchers for maximum carnage. A test shot with the integrated 37mm spotting gun would verify the operators' angle and timing calculations. The three men would then unpack a shell from its carrying case, set the timer knob to detonate the warhead roughly twenty feet above the target, and dial in their preferred yield of ten or twenty tons.

Upon receiving the order to fire, Davy Crockett would leap from its perch with a bang and a cloud of smoke, racing through sky in a long arc to intercept the advancing enemy. The rudimentary atomic bomb did not include an abort feature, so Davy Crockett was committed to destruction once it was en route. Even with the help of the spotter gun and rifled barrel, both of the Davy Crockett launcher designs were somewhat sloppy in their accuracy, so the detonation was likely to be several hundred feet from the target. Moreover, the shells' relatively small yield didn't produce a great deal of blast damage even at the highest setting. But the weapon's tendency to spew radiation over the battlefield made up for its shortcomings as an explosive.

Less than a minute after launch, the detonation timer would tick off its final second over the target area. Few specifics are available about the weapon's internals, but it is likely that it contained a thirty pound hollowed-out wad of plutonium wrapped in beryllium and shape charges. Upon detonation, the shape charges would use a precision shock wave to crush the cavity in the center of the plutonium and press the nuclear material into a small area. Radioactive nuclei tend to eject neutrons, and once the material is crowded into a tiny space these flying neutrons start to hit and split the nuclei of neighboring plutonium atoms. As each atom splits, an abrupt spray of energy is released as well as more neutrons which can go on to split even more nuclei.

The beryllium wrapper increases efficiency by reflecting neutrons back into the mass, ensuring that they rattle around inside and split as many nuclei as possible. This increasing chain-reaction state is known as "prompt critical," and within a heartbeat the concentrated energy reaches explosive proportions.

Any person within a quarter-mile radius of the Davy Crockett explosion would face almost certain death. Those within the first 500 feet would be exposed to enough radiation to kill within minutes or hours, even with the protection of tank armor. People at about 1,000 feet from the blast would experience temporary fatigue and nausea which would then pass, but this misleading "walking ghost" condition leads to a painful death after a few days of apparent well-being. Those beyond a quarter-mile would have better chances of survival, though many would require extensive medical care, and perhaps never fully recover from their injuries. Those lucky enough to be more than one-third of a mile from ground zero would be spared most of the harmful effects, but the mutations in their DNA would give them an increased risk of cancer later in life.

The Davy Crockett's timer allowed a minimum shot distance of about 1,000 feet, but such inept use of the weapon would certainly result in the deaths of the firing team. In most cases, the approaching Soviets would be at least one mile away, leaving the Atomic Battle Group personnel outside of the hazard zone. Even if the launcher's lack of accuracy resulted in relatively few enemy casualties, the radioactivity from the hail of fission bombs would render a large swath of earth uninhabitable for about 48 hours, allowing time for American and NATO forces to mobilize.

Variations of the W54 warhead found a few other niches during the Cold War, including the Special Atomic Demolition Munition (SADM) which could be simply dropped off at a target and set to explode with a timer. A more powerful 250 ton variant was also used on the AIM-26 Falcon, a guided air-to-air missile. Fortunately these ultra-portable casualty dispensers were never used outside of the Nevada desert.

In addition to being the smallest nuclear device ever developed by the United States, the Davy Crockett also has the distinction of being the last atomic device tested by the US in the open atmosphere. The 1962 test shot at the Nevada Proving Grounds confirmed the effectiveness of the design, and the device's tiny form factor made it a real crowd-pleaser-- or a crowd killer, depending on one's point of view. With the destructive power of twenty tons of TNT squeezed into a watermelon-sized package, it's hard to outperform the Davy Crockett in terms of convenient annihilation per cubic inch (CACI). Though its use could have triggered a chain reaction that would have ultimately led to the destruction of humanity, it's hard not to have a strange kind of fondness for the little feller.

Article written by Alan Bellows, published on 21 February 2007. Alan is the founder/designer/head writer/managing editor of Damn Interesting.

Article design and artwork by Alan Bellows.
SHARE

More Information
Related Articles


94 Comments
superJoy
Posted 21 February 2007 at 06:07 pm

Damn interesting indeed.


dterry
Posted 21 February 2007 at 06:39 pm

It would be even more interesting to hear stories from the soldiers who worked with the "little feller".


Morgan
Posted 21 February 2007 at 07:01 pm

Nice, they should use it next season's 24.

Can't imagine how amped up you'd be firing this thing, nuclear is just so unpredictable seeming, Id' definitely wet myself.


LL
Posted 21 February 2007 at 07:09 pm

Man, it sure sounds easy to build one of these little things. I am surprised that one hasn't been used by terrorists yet.


blenderhead
Posted 21 February 2007 at 07:09 pm

I bet the soldiers did not have many children.

I wonder what has happened to all of them? I never seem to hear what happens to all our nukes.
DO we dismantle them? How many could we fire right now? How many nuclear weapons do we possess?

And finally, just how much would one of those cost at wal-mart?


Kiwi
Posted 21 February 2007 at 07:13 pm

Nuclear weapons are going to destroy the earth one day *sigh*


Old Man
Posted 21 February 2007 at 07:18 pm

If only all atomic weapons could be this cute...

DI


Captain Blowhard
Posted 21 February 2007 at 07:30 pm

convenient annihilation per cubic inch (CACI). ? ? .
He He , Nice one. Sounds like your "routing some expanding gas out the rear end"
Very enjoyable Alan ! High quality as ever.


Sabyrne
Posted 21 February 2007 at 08:39 pm

Lets launch a couple of these into the Amazon to get rid of those damn toothpick fish


lemon
Posted 21 February 2007 at 09:44 pm

thank god these were never actually used as a battlefield tactical deployment could, i would imagine, have so easily escalated to the ICBMs being launched - in a nuclear war we all lose (he says, stating the obvious)

great article and love this site :-))


denki
Posted 21 February 2007 at 11:22 pm

Spoiler alert, but if you play Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater then you get to see this bad boy in (virtual) action. Seeing as how DI already did an article about the little flying platform things and ground effect vehicles (both in MSG3), next...rocket-tanks/walking robot tanks. I think the Russians had a "flying" rocket-tank, and a Japanese guy built a rather limited mecha for fun...


frenchsnake
Posted 21 February 2007 at 11:28 pm

Once again, I feel lucky that the world did not end before I was even born. DI.


justapeon
Posted 22 February 2007 at 12:14 am

I think you have your figures off a little here. An example is the 20 ton yield. If you are getting this figure from the global security site it says .18 kiloton which turns out to be 180 ton yield not 18 which would be .018 kiloton. It is very difficult to design a device with a yield smaller than .1 kiloton, and really why would you want to?

Also prompt critical refers to the prompt vice delayed neutrons maintaining the reaction. Reactors are stable and easily controlled because they rely upon the delayed neatrons for criticality (critical means that one fission will produce enough neutrons to cause one more fission. most neutrons are absorbed and do not go on to cause another fission). A nuclear device is really blowing up because it has gone super critical.

Radioactive elements (isotopes) tend to eject all sorts of stuff...gamma's, beta's, alpha's (a helium nucleus) not just neutrons (slow and fast). Only specific isotopes will eject neutrons.


Alan Bellows
Posted 22 February 2007 at 12:32 am

justapeon said: "I think you have your figures off a little here. An example is the 20 ton yield. If you are getting this figure from the global security site it says .18 kiloton which turns out to be 180 ton yield not 18 which would be .018 kiloton. It is very difficult to design a device with a yield smaller than .1 kiloton, and really why would you want to?

Actually, the error appears to be in the Global security article, which disagrees with itself when it says "It's 51-pound nuclear warhead had an explosive yield of 0.18 kilotons (equivalent to 18 tons of TNT, with an added radiation effect)." Other sources confirm the 18 ton yield, though most round it up to 20 since there was a lot of variation.

Also prompt critical refers to the prompt vice delayed neutrons maintaining the reaction. Reactors are stable and easily controlled because they rely upon the delayed neatrons for criticality (critical means that one fission will produce enough neutrons to cause one more fission. most neutrons are absorbed and do not go on to cause another fission). A nuclear device is really blowing up because it has gone super critical.

"Prompt critical" is a special case of supercriticality where each fission triggers more than one additional fission, an exponential increase which can lead to an explosion. More info here.

Radioactive elements (isotopes) tend to eject all sorts of stuff…gamma's, beta's, alpha's (a helium nucleus) not just neutrons (slow and fast). Only specific isotopes will eject neutrons."

Yes, though in the case of our plutonium bomb, neutrons are in play.


Taurus
Posted 22 February 2007 at 12:50 am

kiwi, yes a nuke free world is preferable. We can only lead by example and hope the rest of the world see's its folly.


Kiwi
Posted 22 February 2007 at 01:51 am

yeah well let's hope new zealand won't get effected too bad if a nuclear war does happen...


PresMatt
Posted 22 February 2007 at 02:42 am

Kiwi said: "yeah well let's hope new zealand won't get effected too bad if a nuclear war does happen…"

If one nuke gets launched, they're all gettin launched. You'll most likely be dead before you hear about it on TV.

Barring, of course, a terrorist organization getting their hands on a bomb... Then there's a chance the world won't end. Still a possibility if their home nation (Iran/North Korea) has bombs... Eh, too many scenarios... most of which end in a white hot flash of light.


ironcross
Posted 22 February 2007 at 04:57 am

Funny how they named this thing the Davy Crocket. I learned many years ago that the ancestors of David Crocket - the real pronunciation of his name - were ticked at this new spelling. Apparently, as it seems to be the case with all things these days, David Crocket's name was popularized as Davy Crocket because of the show of the same name produced by Walt Disney. Apparently it was difficult to properly write a lyric with David Crocket so they shortened it to Davy and the rest is history.


MikeyMouse
Posted 22 February 2007 at 06:34 am

Smallest ever nuclear device? what about that other DamnInteresting article about the nuclear howitzer shell. wouldnt it have been smallter to be fired as an artillery shell?


MikeyMouse
Posted 22 February 2007 at 06:36 am

http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=213

This one, hmm, guess annie was a bit bigger than david/davey


Wolfie
Posted 22 February 2007 at 07:10 am

It always amazes me how much capacity and ingenuity we put into killing ourselves.

It just wasnt enough to create nuclear ICBMs we needed a nifty hand held version as well?

blenderhead said: I wonder what has happened to all of them? I never seem to hear what happens to all our nukes. DO we dismantle them? How many could we fire right now? How many nuclear weapons do we possess?"

Would be Damn Interesting to know, but I dont think I would be able to sleep at night again afterwards knowing the primate president is in charge of that lot!!!


Dublin
Posted 22 February 2007 at 08:07 am

PresMatt said: "

Barring, of course, a terrorist organization getting their hands on a bomb… Then there's a chance the world won't end. Still a possibility if their home nation (Iran/North Korea) has bombs… Eh, too many scenarios… most of which end in a white hot flash of light."

I worry about North Korea and Iran having the bomb, but then again, America is the only country to actually drop a bomb on a population (twice) and furthermore is the only western nation that has initiated unilateral wars in the last decade, and no one seems to raise issue with their nuclear arsenal. And before you start talking about radical fundamentalist leaders in NK and Iran, didn't God tell George Bush to invade Iraq? sounds pretty fanatical to me.

I also recall reading about a company called ABB which supplied North Korea with the machinery to build the bomb, and if I remember correctly, Donald Rumsfeld was a CEO of the company at the time. You will have to excuse me if I'm incorrect, as I can't recall where I read this.

Back on topic, very interesting article and amusing that the device itself looks almost like a charicature of what you would imagine it's appearance to be. Would take nerves of steel to man the weapon that fired this. Not just because of self preservation, but also because ot the resulting carnage and loss of life.


blenderhead
Posted 22 February 2007 at 08:17 am

The nuclear bombs we dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima saved -millions- of lives. The only use of these hellish weapons in history was a responsible use, oddly enough. A miracle, huh?


Jim Baerg
Posted 22 February 2007 at 08:26 am

Re: comment #5 by blenderhead

There is a "MEGATONS TO MEGAWATTS" program for using up weapons grade material in power reactors.
It's easy to down blend weapons grade uranium to low enrichment suitable for light water reactors. My understanding is that it's hard to use plutonium in light water reactors, but there is work being done on using up weapons grade plutonium in CANDU reactors.


frenchsnake
Posted 22 February 2007 at 08:30 am

Responsible use... that's very debatable. Still, perhaps the bombs dropped on Japan helped serve as a deterrent in the Cold War by providing an example of what they can do to humans... *shudder*


Tink
Posted 22 February 2007 at 09:14 am

Well, the only "comment" I can come up with is from a favorite artist:

http://music.yahoo.com/track/894580

Of course another Disney movie was based on this war stuff, I think it was called "Shitty,Shitty,Bang,Bang" Lol JK


Dublin
Posted 22 February 2007 at 09:32 am

blenderhead said: "The nuclear bombs we dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima saved -millions- of lives. The only use of these hellish weapons in history was a responsible use, oddly enough. A miracle, huh?"

There is much evidence that points to the contrary but that issue has been more than dealt with in previous threads.

The most important thing that nuclear devices have ever achieved is the prevention of war between Superpowers. It's sad that people are so desperate to fight each other that guaranteed anhialation is about all that eventually stopped them, and even then, only just.


blenderhead
Posted 22 February 2007 at 10:29 am

Japan was a stiff necked nation. The citizens had all been trained from birth that to give ones life in combat was honorable. Japanese soldiers AND civilians demonstrated their willingness to die in the pacific. a invasion of the Japanese homeland would have most likely required the killing of a mass majority of the Japanese people, and surely the entire military. In war, VERY rarely does any participant fight to annihilation; the Japanese would. and the thousands we lost at Iwo Jima would be a laughing matter in light of the enormous casualties that would be sustained in a assault on Japans home island. It was planned to send over a million and a half troops on the first wave, simply so that we could establish a foot hold.
In retrospect, it is amazing that the obliteration of only two cities precipitated a surrender. We had not expected them to surrender so easily. We had been preparing to decimate most of japans homeland with nuclear bombs.


djsteiniii
Posted 22 February 2007 at 10:42 am

Yet another *fascinating* article! I think we need another DI section to encompass all these articles related to nuclear weapons. We could call it "Impending Doom" or something equally foreboding.


rev.felix
Posted 22 February 2007 at 10:45 am

Kiwi said: "Nuclear weapons are going to destroy the earth one day *sigh*"

Actually, we could simultaniously detonate every nuke we have and the earth would be fine. Life as we know it would end, but the earth itself would just need a few thousand years to recover. Now if we use them to knock the moon out of orbit...


Floj
Posted 22 February 2007 at 11:03 am

Blenderhead, I agree. The casualties on both sides would have been huge. Japan had also been extensively warned:

http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=30

Anyway, just imagine how fast one of those bombs could bake a pie! It would happen in a flash!
(how do you make links on comments?)


Erados
Posted 22 February 2007 at 11:56 am

It used to really bother me when I realised that Nuclear stuff kind of fizzed and reproduced - I'm not good with the whole nucleus things and protons and electrons make my head spin, but I'm pretty sure I get the point and the incredible benefits of Nuclear energy.

It still bothers me, but I've given up on worrying whether it'll end our lives, because there's not much anyone can do about it. The technology is out there, it's just a matter of time before somebody tosses a coke can out of a plane and puts a crater in the world.

I especially hate how it's really convenient to kill everything in a so-and-so mile radius.

Imagine. You're living in WWII Poland and you've heard news that the Americans are coming to liberate your beloved country - by wiping out life, 1000 square feet at a time.

Since apparently they needed these little fellers in case the Axis got even more cocky, it doesn't sound much like they were going to be using them as offense. So what's the freaking idea here? Wipe out your own terrain to get the enemies off?


wargammer
Posted 22 February 2007 at 12:06 pm

the US have been buying old soviet warheads and converting them into reactor fuel

also we do the same with ours

http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/summary.htm

materials would be reprocessed to make them usable in newer weapons.

remember the materials are decaying
so any left over small bombs like these would need to have any fuel reprocessed to make a usable nuke
they do have a shelf-life. all of them do.


vonmeth
Posted 22 February 2007 at 02:15 pm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_bombings_of_Hiroshima_and_Nagasaki

It was not neccesarry, and most generals agree Japan was ready to surrender.


senorstu
Posted 22 February 2007 at 02:41 pm

Hmmm...

No abort feature, a range only four times that of the "radius of certain death", and the spark of a full-blown nuclear exchange in the hands of trigger-happy infantrymen. Sounds like the dumbest weapon ever developed. What was the next step, nuclear hand grenades? Uranium-tipped bayonets?

Plus, what if this happens: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPRmFaXSkjc


Erados
Posted 22 February 2007 at 02:49 pm

senorstu said: "Hmmm…
What was the next step, nuclear hand grenades? Uranium-tipped bayonets?

*stab *
Look! You're eroding!


CoryP
Posted 22 February 2007 at 03:02 pm

Maybe I am being incredibly nieve, but isn't the thought of nuclear bombs "wiping out all life on the planet" a bit overstated? I mean, bombs have a limited (but still large) blast and fallout radius. Wouldn't it take a hell of a lot of bombs to take out all life on the planet? It should take multiple large warheads just to take out one major city.

And who the hell is going to bomb Coffeyville, Kansas? Seems like we are dispersed enough to survive?

Am I wrong?


blenderhead
Posted 22 February 2007 at 03:50 pm

well... half true. i mean, yeah, to kill all life would be a enormous undertaking, but life sure would suck after a nuclear holocaust, lots of people would die, and get sick, thunderdome... but unless a ancillary effect did it, it probably would not kill -every-one, at least not immediately.


1c3d0g
Posted 22 February 2007 at 05:09 pm

superJoy: amen!

CoryP: no offense, but you are seriously mistaken. I suggest you pick-up some books to broaden your knowledge. For instance, radioactive fall-out spreads much further than the immediate area of the blast. Time and time again even well-respected scientists have underestimated the devastating effects of radioactivity (just look at any documentary about Chernobyl and you'll see what I mean).

So, because you are a living being, you're going to have to eat and drink somehow, but if those resources are contaminated, you're as good as dead anyway. Radioactivity is something to be taken VERY SERIOUSLY by anyone with half a brain. That's why nations trying to develop nuclear weapons of any kind must be discouraged to do so, for everyone's sake.


Ironclaw
Posted 22 February 2007 at 05:17 pm

rev.felix said: "Actually, we could simultaniously detonate every nuke we have and the earth would be fine. Life as we know it would end, but the earth itself would just need a few thousand years to recover. …"

But wouldn't that lead to global warming?


Nonesuch
Posted 22 February 2007 at 06:12 pm

Davy Crockett is a catchy name ( and tune) , little feller adds a warm weapon loving aspect, but as I took in the photos and article detail, I had visions of a grand Armed Forces Day vendor booth, brightly proclaiming "Armageddon on -a- stick"


smokefoot
Posted 22 February 2007 at 06:25 pm

The US has about 10,000 nuclear warheads, down from a peak of 30,000 in the 1960's. The plan is to further reduce this to 2,220 by 2012. Life on earth is getting safer all the time!

On the subject of terrorists making a small bomb - It is not easy to miniaturize a nuclear bomb. There is at least one part which is simply not made anymore. Replacing it with off-the-shelf parts would require thousands of parts - which would blow up the size.


Bolens
Posted 22 February 2007 at 06:40 pm

Creepy stuff; a great article. Hey, them `ol scientists, they have it all under control. Relax my friends and place your hope and trust in proven mathematics. In an amoral society, the future is bright. Blindingly so.


Morgan
Posted 23 February 2007 at 12:33 am

CoryP said: "Seems like we are dispersed enough to survive?Am I wrong?"

We are. It could be devastating, but would not be extinction. Not anywhere close in my opinion, but I'd truly love to see if we took the peak counts of all nukes, and fired them optimally all over the globe, how much actual livable space could be destroyed. I think it would be far far less than we fear.

vonmeth said: "It was not neccesarry, and most generals agree Japan was ready to surrender."

Which they did not do after the first bomb. They can say what they want, and people believed whatever they believed. They simply did not surrender after Hiroshima. And if they surrendered eventually due to Russia in Manchuria, were we supposed to be precognizant that that would happen?

If they were indeed ready to surrender, they needed to make it clear and wave the white flag openly and express their terms. It was not our duty to go look for the white flag in their pocket and then divine that they had intended to wave it.

On the immorality of it, I just don't see it, Japan tried attacks on our civilian population first, bombing our forests here in Oregon, and yes I'm still upset about it :) They thought they could start fires large enough to spread along the coast and into our cities. Rangers put out the one fire they did get started, but I still look for those SOBs coming back everytime I go to Cape Perpetua.


blenderhead
Posted 23 February 2007 at 08:26 am

the Japanese had it coming to them, they were the most brutal participants in WWII, even compared to Hitler. The atrocity's the Japanese committed at Nanjing are alone worse then both of our bombs, and they produced and used biological weapons on civilians in china. I feel no pity on Japan.


Techno-Kid
Posted 23 February 2007 at 08:44 am

Morgan said: "We are. It could be devastating, but would not be extinction. Not anywhere close in my opinion, but I'd truly love to see if we took the peak counts of all nukes, and fired them optimally all over the globe, how much actual livable space could be destroyed. I think it would be far far less than we fear."

I think the reason people feel we would all die is because of Nuclear Winter™. I suppose it IS just a theory - let's hope we never find out if it's correct.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_winter


Floj
Posted 23 February 2007 at 10:50 am

vonmeth said: "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_bombings_of_Hiroshima_and_Nagasaki


It was not neccesarry, and most generals agree Japan was ready to surrender."

The peace party of Japan used the devastation of the bombings to convince the war supporting leaders of Japan to surrender. It may not have been the best way, but Japan is now peaceful. So yes, many Japanese leaders wanted to surrender. Unfortunately, there weren't enough.

Here, this is from that article you posted: "We of the peace party were assisted by the atomic bomb in our endeavor to end the war." under the debate section.

Perhaps a massive drop of pies would have resolved the war as well. The simple good tasting things in life are what really make a difference.


GregDDC
Posted 23 February 2007 at 10:55 am

Techno-Kid said: "I think the reason people feel we would all die is because of Nuclear Winter™. I suppose it IS just a theory - let's hope we never find out if it's correct.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_winter

Nuclear Winter™ + Global Warming™ = 72º and sunny. Hooray!


blenderhead
Posted 23 February 2007 at 11:46 am

Floj said:
Perhaps a massive drop of pies would have resolved the war as well. The simple good tasting things in life are what really make a difference."

I agree. I propose a airdrop of cold iced tea in the middle east. Instead of killing one another, lets just drink iced tea and smoke weed.


xcretor
Posted 23 February 2007 at 12:07 pm

I think it is a bit unfair to judge the legitamacy of the Hiroshima / Nagasaki bombings from this vantage of history. If you can use your imagination to assume the responsibility, knowledge and experience of President Truman at that point in history, I don't know how anyone could have made a different choice. Also considering the American public opinion on this subject at that point in time, one might say that as elected official he had an obligation to choose the path that he did.


NeonCat
Posted 23 February 2007 at 03:17 pm

Not to be pedantic, but the ancestors of David/Davy Crockett probably had nothing to say about what he is called, as they are (presumably) as dead as he is. His descendants, OTOH, might have something to say about it, but what power have they against mighty Disney? Surely less than a Soviet tank commander against a Davy Crockett.

You can drop a soda can out of a plane today and make a crater. A small one. It is called littering.

Nuclear winter was BS from the get-go. Nuclear autumn, maybe. A big maybe, at that.

Yes, look at Chornobyl. I wouldn't want to live there, but it is not a desolate desert-wasteland. A major, old-skool nuclear war would have devastated the US and USSR, probably Europe, China and the Middle East (or wherever the "provocation"/reason was located) but the strategically unimportant parts of the world, like New Zealand (uh, except WOOL would be a strategic resource when nuclear winter happened) would probably never have seen a single mushroom cloud. Point is, as Morgan Freeman said in Deep Impact the world would have continued, life would have gone on. It would have sucked to be a survivor, à la The Day After, but humans would have survived.

I sure could use some sweet iced tea about now, myself.


God
Posted 23 February 2007 at 03:56 pm

The reason places like New Zealand would never see a single mushroom cloud is because the whole freakin' Pacific is nuclear free.

And I agree, New Zealand is a strategic nonety, thats why it wasnt even included in the ANZUS treaty.


Silverhill
Posted 23 February 2007 at 04:26 pm

rev.felix said: "Now if we use [nukes] to knock the moon out of orbit…"

Not gonna happen, sir, not ever. The energy required to notably shift Luna's orbit is way more than that of all our nukes put together. Planets (and large moons) are very big things indeed.


blenderhead
Posted 23 February 2007 at 06:20 pm

Silverhill said: "Not gonna happen, sir, not ever. The energy required to notably shift Luna's orbit is way more than that of all our nukes put together. Planets (and large moons) are very big things indeed."

But we can try. We can try. If we work together, we can overcome all obstacles!


fvngvs
Posted 23 February 2007 at 08:11 pm

Brrrr....... It's bloody frightening to see the naivete of the early nuclear experimenters. It's a wonder we're still on this planet. All we need now is for one of these dandy little warheads to fall into the hands of the [insert name of freedom-fighters here].

Another 9.2 on the DI-o-meter, Alan. Thanks!

Floj, blenderhead, you've missed the point. "Give a man a pie and you'll feed him for a day...." What we need is to teach 'em all basic culinary skills and convince 'em all to make their own pies.


God
Posted 23 February 2007 at 10:33 pm

fvngvs: Please finish that thing about the pie

"Give a man a pie and you'll feed him for a day…."

...teach a man to make a pie, and what, he'll know how to make a pie?


Floj
Posted 24 February 2007 at 02:54 am

fvngvs said: "


Floj, blenderhead, you've missed the point. "Give a man a pie and you'll feed him for a day…." What we need is to teach 'em all basic culinary skills and convince 'em all to make their own pies."

Ah, but you never tell everyone the secrets of your home recipe! Just give'em the basics so they can create their own new masterpiece. mmmhmm


donlaudanny
Posted 24 February 2007 at 08:01 am

Mmm...Nuku-licious...*gurgles*


Erados
Posted 24 February 2007 at 08:38 am

Well, personally, I can stand to wait a while before someone can toss a soda can out of a plane and make a NUCLEAR crater.

As for the moon-out-of-orbit thing - if you've read anything about the moon, you'll know it's sprinkled with craters, and if I remember correctly, meteors that have hit the moon have the force of a great many nukes.


Floj
Posted 24 February 2007 at 11:57 am

http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=476

Y'all might find this article interesting too. It was like a tastey slice of pie.


binaryspiral
Posted 26 February 2007 at 09:42 pm

God said: "The reason places like New Zealand would never see a single mushroom cloud is because the whole freakin' Pacific is nuclear free.

And I agree, New Zealand is a strategic nonety, thats why it wasnt even included in the ANZUS treaty."

If you had oil... you might be worthy of invasion. Or that's what the world is currently thinking. :-(


Giltfoulanchor
Posted 27 February 2007 at 09:55 pm

The long and short of the Davy Crockett system was that it was a suicide weapon. The operators knew that if they ever had the occasion to use the system it was a sign of extreme desperation. That was one of the many reasons that JFK pulled both versions out of the field. NATO was outnumbered by the Warsaw Pact in both men and tanks by a factor of 10. There was no "qualitative" edge for NATO as there came to be beginning in the mid-1970's. The T-54 and T-55 tanks were equal to any NATO tank of the day, and existed on in numbers far exceeding the 5 to 1 ratio generally accepted as optimal for success in attack. These were also the years following the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 where Soviet tanks machine gunned civilians in the streets of Buda and Pest, and the same time that the Soviets were erecting a garden wall around a small German town called Berlin. Then, (as the day that the the wall came down), NATO doctrine in case of attack from the East, called for holding the fort at all costs until reinforcements arrived from the United States.


E-hero
Posted 10 March 2007 at 06:28 am

If somebody knows how this would be useful in an offensive strategy, I would love to know how, because I'm stumped.


reanueax
Posted 12 March 2007 at 10:06 pm

I didn't know these existed outside of the metal gear solid 3 universe!


Falco Peregrinus
Posted 25 September 2007 at 11:17 am

rev.felix said: "Actually, we could simultaniously detonate every nuke we have and the earth would be fine. Life as we know it would end, but the earth itself would just need a few thousand years to recover. Now if we use them to knock the moon out of orbit…"

To my knowledge the moon is already moving away from earth at like a 1/4 inch a year or something, but its orbit will stabilize eventually.


ToadMIB
Posted 26 September 2007 at 12:12 pm

Am I a bad person for having found the jokes in this discussion funny?


PK
Posted 29 October 2007 at 04:18 pm

The National Atomic Museum in Albuquerque NM has nearly every nuclear shape including most weapons. Most are on Kirtland AFB until the new NAM opens in fall 08. They have an Atomic Annie on display. Kirtland has the classified Atomic Weapons Display Area. Very interesting to see. But only those with a Secret Clearance and a need to know can see it. Sorry.

The main reason the Davy Crockett was demilled was because it could not be adequately secured against unauthorized use. Modern weapons have intricate mechanisms to ensure they can't be detonated until properly authorized.

It was also a very "hot" weapon. Because if its size it did not have much shielding. The earth can survive a nuclear detonation. Look at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. People live there without problems. The main source of radiation is emitted within seconds of detonation in the form of heat, light and gamma radiation.

Most fallout is alpha contamination and unless you ingest it, it's not harmful. When nuclear weapons were accidentally dropped on Palomares Spain there were several low order detonations (no nuclear yield but high explosives detonated). Most of the alpha contaminated soil was removed and put in barrels and shipped back to the US. The remainder was plowed under. Alpha radiation only travels about 3cm and even paper can block it. Just stay away from the blast zone and you'll be fine.


Anonymousx2
Posted 31 March 2008 at 05:31 am

First and Last.

(Just thought that I should irritate the children. What good is being an adult if you can't make a kid's life miserable?)


oldmancoyote
Posted 31 March 2008 at 05:04 pm

Giltfoulanchor, I'm not sure which article you read. As these devices were in service until the 70's I find it hard to believe that JFK had anything to do with pulling this system out of the field.

You really have to admire our government's desire to turn everything into a nuclear weapon. I'm surprised that nuke hand grenades were not developed. I figure size and weight were the real limiting factor for that.


Criggie
Posted 01 April 2008 at 01:13 am

PK said: Just stay away from the blast zone and you'll be fine."

Sage advice for anyone contemplating nearby explosions, I do believe.


noway
Posted 01 April 2008 at 10:21 am

oldmancoyote said: "I'm surprised that nuke hand grenades were not developed. I figure size and weight were the real limiting factor for that."

I think maybe the fact that no one could throw a nuclear hand grenade far enough to not kill themselves too came into the equation...


bifyu
Posted 01 April 2008 at 05:03 pm

God said: "... the whole freakin' Pacific is nuclear free."

Presumably there are nuclear armaments based out of Pearl Harbor?


Jared Lessl
Posted 02 April 2008 at 06:59 am

Silverhill said: "Not gonna happen, sir, not ever. The energy required to notably shift Luna's orbit is way more than that of all our nukes put together. Planets (and large moons) are very big things indeed."

Which, on a totally unrelated topic, is what really pissed me off about the Time Machine movie remake. Not only was the "one nuke made the moon fall from the sky" a lousy plot device, but the Aesop it was supposed to teach, "We went too far", was just chock full of fail. One lousy piece of space rock zigs instead of zags and as a result, the human race is nearly wiped out, and the lesson here is that we should have just sat on our laurels for all eternity? Maybe we should move back into caves to avoid having homes that get flattened by hurricanes and earthquakes, too?


VykkDraygo
Posted 02 April 2008 at 08:36 am

True fact, cost of one, ONE, B22 Stealth Bomber, 22BILLION dollars! imagine a NUKE now! is this really where the rest of our tax dollars go? now look, pluto is no longer considered a planet! so THAT must be what scientists are doing, looking at crap we already classified YEARS ago! i mean...what the hell...


VykkDraygo
Posted 02 April 2008 at 08:38 am

noway said: "I think maybe the fact that no one could throw a nuclear hand grenade far enough to not kill themselves too came into the equation…"

interesting indeed...not to mention, i would be a little timid having nuclear stuff hanging around my waist...i would like to have children someday...


VykkDraygo
Posted 02 April 2008 at 08:39 am

Morgan said: "Nice, they should use it next season's 24.

Can't imagine how amped up you'd be firing this thing, nuclear is just so unpredictable seeming, Id' definitely wet myself."

24 is a totally unrelated topic. if you have nothing useful to say, say nothing at all. thank you.


Silverhill
Posted 02 April 2008 at 05:23 pm

VykkDraygo said: "if you have nothing useful to say, say nothing at all. thank you."
Take thine own advice, I say. The B-2 (not "B-22"---not yet, at least; the XB-22 is under development) costs up to $2.2 billion apiece, not $22 billion (according to the GAO).
And, whatever its cost, it seems irrelevant here.

"imagine a NUKE now! is this really where the rest of our tax dollars go?"
No, not really---especially since no new nukes are being built nowadays.

"now look, pluto is no longer considered a planet!"
This also is not relevant---that is, useful---here.

"so THAT must be what scientists are doing, looking at crap we already classified YEARS ago!"
You're making less and less sense as you go along. There are many instances where things need to be re-examined, even if they were classified years ago.

"i mean...what the hell..."
Indeed! What the hell are you going on about?


Anthropositor
Posted 04 April 2008 at 09:02 am

%$#@ ^%$#(* #^%$** ^%$(*&+^&!


Anthropositor
Posted 04 April 2008 at 12:06 pm

In support of the above comment, I have done a rough assessment of the first forty comments on this nuclear essay.
Smart: 13, 14.
Reasonable: 21, 22, 24, 27, 34, 35, 39.
A smattering of reasonable: 6, 12, 25, 29.
Goofy: 7, 8, 9, 11, 26, 37, 38, 40.
Borderline goofy: 10.
Idiotic: 16, 28.
Super idiotic: 15.
Almost no content: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 36.
Almost complete bullshit: 23, 31, 32, 33.
Technically correct complete bullshit: 30.
Unclassifiable: Those not selected above.

13. An isotope need not be radioactive.
15. The U.S. was central to the folly.


Timtim
Posted 05 April 2008 at 08:27 pm

Until the early 80's the U.S.Marines had nuclear mortars in their arsenal, though they did not have actually custody of them. The east coast storage depot was the "Q" area at NWS Yorktown, Va. I know because when the government decide to take tactical nukes out of the inventory, I went to Camp Legune and picked up the training device they had.Later on we loaded out a SST with a few hundred of these that we had stored and sent them to Pantex for disassembly .
We also had the W54 warhead, but the Navy converted them in to landmines that were to be carried in a backpack by specwarfare(Seals). They were to be used to destroy dams and such.
They were kept in containers we called "coffins" because it took four people to carry them and you had to walk as if you were carrying a coffin. Had a whole bunch of them babies too.


edraven
Posted 10 April 2008 at 08:51 am

xcretor said: "I think it is a bit unfair to judge the legitamacy of the Hiroshima / Nagasaki bombings from this vantage of history. If you can use your imagination to assume the responsibility, knowledge and experience of President Truman at that point in history..."

We really do have differing points of view as the years go by, but I think it is OK to judge the past eventhough the decisions at the time made sense.

Slavery probably seemed like a good idea, at the time. The Crusades - - Vietnam - - the Edsal.

Even God destroyed the entire human population, except for Noah's family, and we were told that was a great idea. (Cue rainbow here.)

Ed Graham


Erasure
Posted 11 April 2008 at 12:48 am

Anthropositor said: "In support of the above comment, I have done a rough assessment of the first forty comments on this nuclear essay.

Smart: 13, 14.

Reasonable: 21, 22, 24, 27, 34, 35, 39.

A smattering of reasonable: 6, 12, 25, 29.

Goofy: 7, 8, 9, 11, 26, 37, 38, 40.

Borderline goofy: 10.

Idiotic: 16, 28.

Super idiotic: 15.

Almost no content: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 36.

Almost complete bullshit: 23, 31, 32, 33.

Technically correct complete bullshit: 30.

Unclassifiable: Those not selected above.

13. An isotope need not be radioactive.

15. The U.S. was central to the folly."

Anthropositor you have way too much time on your hands. Do you work for the government???

Erasure

[spammy link removed]


Anthropositor
Posted 13 April 2008 at 06:35 am

I actually have litle surplus time, and it may run out before I am ready. I do work for the betterment of government. Clearly, more help is needed.


Two Cents from Girth
Posted 15 April 2008 at 07:07 pm

We have come along way since those oversized RPGs with a bang! I saw the Excaliber SP Artillery System a few weeks ago, the new line of the Paladin SPs. That was a pretty damn cool piece of machinery. The point is, I think we have a few Armored Self Propelled units out there with nuclear capability. I just didnt see any survivability in the photos of three guys in a jeep less than two miles from a massive invasionary front... In forty years, we have been able to reduce the size and increase the yield of our limited yield nuclear tactical weopons as well as diversify our delivery systems. I just dont think other countries realize how deep our hurt locker is, we have all kinds of options for all kinds of situations. Again, great job Armed Forces!


wargammer2005
Posted 17 April 2008 at 08:19 am

vonmeth said: "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_bombings_of_Hiroshima_and_Nagasaki

It was not neccesarry, and most generals agree Japan was ready to surrender."

too bad that all people cant be as all knowing as you seem to be.


Nano_Burger
Posted 08 May 2008 at 09:33 am

"People at about 1,000 feet from the blast would experience temporary fatigue and nausea which would then pass, but this misleading "walking ghost" condition leads to a painful death after a few days of apparent well-being."

This is called latent lethality. Ususally starts with a whole body dose of 200-350 cGy. But even then up 50% can survive with supportive care. 350-550 cGy you have maybe 10% chance of surviving. One of the best things you can do if you recieve above 550 cGy is dig your own grave as it will cut down on the resulting disease associated with rotting bodies.


Bill Lake
Posted 06 June 2008 at 04:20 am

I was assigned to guard the Davey Crockett in 1963, Germany. Those photographs are not even close to what I guarded. The Davey Crockett that I guarded was all stainless steel and resembled a morter type cannon, the size of a VW.


Anthropositor
Posted 12 July 2008 at 03:43 pm

blenderhead said: "The nuclear bombs we dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima saved -millions- of lives. The only use of these hellish weapons in history was a responsible use, oddly enough. A miracle, huh?"

No, not a miracle. Widely accepted propaganda. It is true that there may well have been a substantial saving in total lost lives. But it was an extreme propaganda excess to suggest that this number was in the millions. I was just a young lad at the time, but I was paying a lot of attention to what was happening, because I was having, like Diogenes, great difficulty finding an honest man.

I had already concluded that people don't really even need a good reason to lie, especially to children. I was still chaffing over Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. I could not fathom why grown people would deliberately feed little children this sort of nonsense.

My father, a Presbyterian minister at the time, was a consummate liar with the children of his congregation, of every age.

The best of liars sow great confusion, expertly blending a lot of truth with strategic error and falsity. They capitalize on the deep wish to believe.

I do not believe my father ever prayed. He preyed. And when the Presbyterian Church tired of transferring him into new congregations, they cut him loose in a cosmetic way (simply retiring him, with the gift of a new car), leaving it for the rest of his immediate family to cope with carnage and criminality they should have and could have addressed more appropriately.

Not a second thought was given to his wife and children and what they had to deal with. How very Catholic of the Presbyterian Heirachy.

But I digress. Getting back to the bombings of the two pristine, non-strategic civilian target cities, it is not just a matter of should we have or shouldn't we have. Could we have done it in such a way as to reduce casualties? Could we have accomplished the same purpose with only the immediate loss of fifty thousand souls, instead of almost triple that? Could the first bomb have been dropped a few miles off the coast of Japan? Then we would still have done significant damage, but at the same time have demonstrated a certain restraint to the rest of the watchful world. Such restraint might well have had a salutary effect on international politics.

I was once unable to avoid being face to face with General LeMay who was a central planner in these bombings, and who, seventeen years after Hiroshima, advocated much more aggressive actions than we ultimately employed during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Actions which could quite easily have ended all life as we know it on Earth (at almost the first moment in time in which that was really possible).


smartalec
Posted 09 January 2009 at 05:44 pm

Okay, first, unfortunately, atomic weapons are a necessary evil at this point at time, with the doomsday clock reading 5 minutes to midnight. it is inevitable that the human race will either destroy our homes or ourselves, but its not going to be like, (microcosmically) "lets get rid of our police and have no crime! it'll be magic!". Eventually, there may be a nuclear disarming, but I can't ever see any good coming out of it, with the current global scenario.
but honestly, ICBMs may be nessecary, but c'mon, tiny little bitesized atomic explosives, thats hilarous, at almost any level.
how 'bout we build a time machine and kill Franklin oppeniner?
Definitely DI
P.S. EIGHTY-NINTH!!!


Mirage_GSM
Posted 15 April 2009 at 07:58 am

Anthropositor said: "No, not a miracle. Widely accepted propaganda. It is true that there may well have been a substantial saving in total lost lives. But it was an extreme propaganda excess to suggest that this number was in the millions..."

Nobody is ever going to be able to exactly calculate the number of lives saved by the bombs. Frankly I don't care if it was millions or "only" hundreds of thousands. Any "substantial" number of lives saved should be something to be glad about.


moreplainwords
Posted 21 June 2010 at 06:22 am

Contrary to what is reported almost everywhere I've checked online, the Davy Crockett was issued to troops stationed in the Pacific, during the US war with Vietnam. There were a handful at Schofield Barracks.
My dad was one of them. To this day, he has no idea why they picked who they did.


Sugien
Posted 08 July 2010 at 06:50 pm

Some say that just prior to the US leaving Vietnam and before the last air combat unit (57th assault helocopter company) left from up around pleiku rvn that the US denoted at least one Davy which they had up there rather then try to ship it back and take the chance of a unseculed detonation or theift of the unit. Some of the guys from up there in late 1972 say they saw what looked very much like an atomic explosion except that it was very small, which the davy was.


profnutbutter
Posted 26 July 2010 at 05:09 pm

Funny, I just heard of this Davy Crockett nuke only yesterday on a History Channel show.

Baader Meinhof Phenomenon at work once again! (it literally happens to me with alarming frequency that I've spoken to many friends and family about it, but it wasn't until last night, reading the following DI article (link posted below) that I truly became aware that it was such a wide spread phenomenon... always glad to know I'm not just nuts! (although, on a daily basis? That's a lotta Meinhof working for/against/unwittingly-uncaring-towards me (most likely the latter of the three possibilities).

http://www.damninteresting.com/the-baader-meinhof-phenomenon

Finally, in a closing thought: This was a Damned Interesting article for me to read, especially after seeing this same thing on "Modern Marvels: Failed Ideas and Inventions" episode that aired last night. DI indeed.


john caruso
Posted 08 June 2014 at 01:48 pm

Bill Lake said: "I was assigned to guard the Davey Crockett in 1963, Germany. Those photographs are not even close to what I guarded. The Davey Crockett that I guarded was all stainless steel and resembled a morter type cannon, the size of a VW."

never saw a stainless unit---I was assigned to wire up 18 of these working for comerical company in NY--still have some parts of one--would like to donate to some museum--any help on this?? email me--john c.


END OF COMMENTS
Add Your Comment

Note: Your email address will not be published, shared, spammed, or otherwise mishandled. Anonymous comments are more likely to be held for moderation. You can optionally register or login.

You may use basic formatting HTML such as <i>, <b>, and <blockquote>.